UK government won’t stifle autonomous innovation

The Department of Transport said that when it comes to driverless technology, it does not want to introduce heavy legislation that could stifle innovation.

Speaking at the Motor Insurance Summit in London yesterday, Martin Ellis, policy lead, Centre of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Department of Transport, emphasised the government’s commitment to ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of this emerging technology.

He said, ‘We want the UK to be the leading place to research, test and ultimately deploy. We need to maintain momentum.

‘We don’t want to over-legislate too soon and have something that’s disproportionate to the number of vehicles there. We’re all crystal-ball gazing here, but we don’t think we need to change the entire insurance model for a small percentage [of the market]. In the longer term we do need to consider what liability and insurance model is most suited.

‘We still want victims to be compensated and we still want it to be as easy to claim as it is now, but we don’t want to legislate too soon and make the wrong call or legislate too deeply and stifle innovation.’

As it stands now, liability remains with the driver up to level three of autonomous driving (limited self-driving automation), apart from during testing, when manufacturers are liable. But there are questions marks about liability once autonomy reaches level four (full self-driving automation) and level five (full automation).

Martin said, ‘In levels four and five it’s really difficult to see how the driver is still liable. It could take a long time to determine liability for automotive modes.’

Meanwhile, the government has already met representatives from the insurance industry to discuss the issue of data, and Martin said the government plans to consult further this year and hopes to ‘put clarity around this issue by summer next year. At some point the government may need to legislate to ensure data is protected.’

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), a cross-departmental body comprising elements of Department for Transport and Department for Business Innovation & Skills, has been established as the contact point for insurers.